Entropy by Robert Raker
When a series of child abductions and murders disrupt the life of an economically blighted community, the consequences have far-reaching implications. The brutal crimes take a different toll on a disparate group of individuals; the scuba diver who retrieves the children’s bodies; the disfigured cellist who thinks he knows who’s responsible; the undercover federal agent; and the mother of one of the victim’s. United in a situation not of their choosing, they are forced to take a deep, introspective look into their intersected, yet isolated lives.
This is a very powerful and beautiful novel; one which I wasn't expecting to hit me quite as hard as it did. The cover and blurb suggest a standard crime novel, where all is unravelled in the finale, and the criminal is revealed; this is certainly what I thought I was getting myself into. Entropy is not that type of novel.
Raker uses one of my favourite techniques, multiple voice narrative, to tell his story. We're given four different characters who have been affected by the child murders, and we are allowed to feast on their grief, confusion, anger, betrayal, and a host of other emotions. We see how they differ, yet how they are linked in their desolation and despair.
The diver who is employed to recover the childrens' bodies is introduced to us first. Through him, we are given the stark facts of the murders in contrast to how they are affecting his mental state, and his home life. We are then introduced to a disabled musician, whose life has been deconstructed after the loss of his arm. He believes he knows who is responsible for the crimes. Our third narrator is the undercover agent employed to live in the mindset of a paedophile; we see how this additional personality affects his life and relationships. This was the most harrowing, but my favourite of the narratives, purely because it was so raw, so shocking, yet so memorable. Lastly we meet the mother of one of the victims; an entirely flawed and selfish woman, but someone whose life has been utterly torn apart.
Entropy is a fitting title; each of the characters experiences utter chaos in their lives and seem at a loss as to how to put this right. Raker shows us their lives as though they're rotting away beyond any comprehensible cure. It's incredibly bleak and heartbreaking in places, and the language Raker uses is lyrical in places, pulling the reader wholly into the characters' melancholy.
The novel has no real climax, and I felt this was entirely justified. How often in life do the strands tie up nicely in the end? We can't always put everything into a box and tie it up with a pretty bow. Raker is showing us what it looks like when you turn the stone over on peoples' lives, particularly after a devastating series of crimes strikes a small town.
An entirely different take on a crime novel; I absolutely loved it.